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First published in 2004, this book tells the stories of four remarkable British women, whose lives were scorched by Stalin’s purges. One was shot as a spy; one nearly died as a slave labourer in Kazakhstan; and two saw their husbands taken away to the gulag and had to spirit their small children out of the country.
We think of the horrors of the middle of the twentieth century- the Holocaust in Central Europe, the purges in the Soviet Union- as something foreign: terrible, but remote. Rosal Rust, Rose Cohen, Freda Utley, and Pearl Rimel were all Londoners. Like hundreds of young, idealistic Britons in the 1930s, they looked to the Soviet Union for inspiration, for a way in which society could be run better, without the exploitation and poverty which unrestrained capitalism had created. They were less fortunate than most of us: they saw their dreams fulfilled.
In this book, Francis Beckett draws on personal letters, interviews with surviving relatives and archivists to create a picture of four courageous, intelligent, and very different women. The result is a harrowing human document with vivid and unforgettable insights into the world of Stalin’s Russia: its secret trials, labour camps, random disappearances, and concealed executions.